When seeking promotion in UK and Ireland police forces, there’s much you can do before a process is even announced. Writing down your police promotion evidence and experience is one step you can take. Then, aligning that to the behaviours within the Competency and Values Framework (CVF). Aspiring police officer leaders often come to me for support stumped, wondering where to start. Common questions on building an evidence portfolio include:
What kinds of experiences can I use in a promotion board or application?
What’s the best way to gather and organise and structure this into promotion evidence?
How do I choose the best examples from all my police work, then align them to the CVF behaviours (competencies, values)?
This blog aims to answer these common questions and support aspiring officers. I include a detailed example aligned to the CVF competency, ‘We Analyse Critically’. Whether based in the Met Police or Police Scotland, preparing for an application booklet or interview, you can make a great start here…
“It sure pays to have an edge.” – Josey Wales
What Experience Works as Police Promotion Evidence?
“When you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, don’t be afraid to burn the haystack to save yourself from spending half your life picking through strands of straw.” – A.J. Darkholme
Police officers can sometimes draw a blank when contemplating and compiling evidence for police promotion to Sergeant, Inspector and beyond.
Recognising what evidence you have at the desired rank is imperative in police promotion and leadership. I say at the desired rank, because there’s a big difference! The College of Policing aligns Sergeants, Inspectors and Chief Inspector to CVF Level 2. However, their interpretation for promotion assessment varies wildly. I’ve blogged several times before about the importance of understanding the ranks and how they differ. For example the need to take a strategic perspective at Inspector, or ability to operate in the grey at Chief Inspector.
The College themselves in their 2021 launch of leadership CPD materials even recognise and categorise the three Federated leadership ranks differently. Accordingly, Sergeants are defined as ‘first line leaders’, Inspectors as ‘middle managers’, and Chief Inspectors as ‘senior leaders’. All of these insights are covered in detail within my premium rank-specific digital toolkits and Video Masterclass materials.
It’s often hard to think about your experiences and decipher the ‘golden needles’ which form strong promotion evidence. There’s a whole proverbial haystack to sift through, containing years on the job and much great police work. Here’s 11 example themes that may prompt your ideas about recognising great work you have done. Consider requirements for each of the different ranks:
- Developing yourself and others (CPD, coaching, mentoring)
- Managing and responding to a planned or spontaneous operational incident
- Improving the performance of individuals and teams (whether through processes to reduce crime and disorder, or addressing/supporting underperformance of individuals within your team)
- Supporting or being inclusive to colleagues or other stakeholders, such as implementing reasonable adjustments in the workplace
- Improving the wellbeing of your colleagues
- Implementing a business change in your team or wider force that improved service delivery
- Stakeholder engagement and briefings on important matters
- Effective decision-making and use of the NDM, either yourself or through empowering others
- Leading the effective investigation of crime
- Management of resources and delegation
- Leading through times of uncertainty
As I outline in my exclusive & uninterrupted >4hr Video Masterclass, having some Acting or Temporary promotion experience means little for a promotion board. However, it may have given you the opportunity to gather more experience, insights and evidence at the level of the next rank.
To prompt further ideas, you can browse my archive of free blogs. I also provide a range of free videos, free guides and free podcasts about police promotion and leadership. To go further, browse example application/interview questions and rank-specific, detailed examples of what works. All these are held within my premium promotion toolkits which you can download for yourself. These are all designed to help you recognise and then shape your own experiences, in preparation for your force promotion process. Even better, use code RSGUIDES20 for 20% off at checkout from anywhere on my website!
How Can I Organise My Police Experience into Promotion Evidence?
“Organized people are just too lazy to go looking for what they want.” – Albert Einstein
Put simply, the best way to organise your experience is to bring it into focus by writing it down. This applies whatever your force promotion process entails! If you must submit a promotion application booklet in future, you’ll already have a working draft for when the time comes. The act of writing down and structuring / organising your evidence aids your memory. Specifically, it supports the ‘intend, file, rehearse’ technique I expand upon in my premium support materials. I provide more guidance in my ‘Application Success’ guide; this includes what differentiates lower- and higher-scoring evidence.
Structure is also essential to convey your experience in an organised, methodical manner for your reader. It’s key to compiling evidence and building cases in everyday policing; so why ignore this when building your own case for promotion? For example, the Met Police advocate the use of ‘SOAR’: Situation, Objective, Actions, Result. A simple and memorable alternative might be Problem, Actions, Result (PAR). Also consider Level, Complexity, and Outcome (LCO) at the Inspecting ranks.
Next, let’s see what good evidence looks like, with explanations of why, and detailed insights; as I provide extensively in my digital toolkits of course!
So, What Does Good Police Promotion Evidence Look Like?
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe
Here I will provide an example of what good looks like and why, aligned to the CVF competency, ‘We Analyse Critically’. This is just one of many tangible examples from my ‘What Works: Promotion Evidence & Examples’ guide for the rank of Sergeant…
I advocate the importance of structure in other blogs and my police promotion toolkits. The example provided below uses a simple ‘Problem, Action, Result’ (PAR) structure. This is particularly useful for answering rear-facing questions on application forms. Other structures for laying out evidence also exist, such as ‘SOAR’ (Situation, Objective, Action, Result), advised for Met Police promotion candidates. Realise that most of the important ‘scoring’ content should feature under ‘actions’. This means outlining what you did, detailing how you did it, and explaining why.
The following is a solid example of what good evidence might look like in a Constable to Sergeant police promotion application form. Application booklets often have very restricted word counts. I provide nearly 50 more such model examples in my premium Sergeant toolkit to give you a flavour of variety. This ‘story’ could also form the basis of a conversational response in interviews. Specifically, within the ‘Evidence’ section of my bespoke, tried and tested ‘ENAMEL’ mnemonic for answering promotion interview questions.
Remember that writing your evidence down is always a good starting point; regardless of whether your promotion process involves an application booklet. This is because it makes your examples tangible. You can add, alter, amend or adapt them to improve them. It’s much more effective than a loose or abstract story in your head that you have to keep rethinking.
Potential prompt or question: “Please give your best example of analysing critically to inform a decision you made.”
Example: CVF Competency ‘We Analyse Critically’ (250 words)
Problem: As A/Sergeant, I led the response to a violent incident. Four suspects were forcing entry to a prolific criminal’s home, armed with weapons.
Actions: Using the NDM, I verified information enroute to the scene to identify risk(s), arriving first. Offenders had made off. I assessed witness information to gain an accurate understanding of the situation, identifying two scenes within converted multi-occupancy premises. My objectives were to protect life, preserve evidence, and safely arrest suspects. I established an RV point considering safety of responding officers. I dynamically briefed officers upon arrival (using IIMARCHD) to ensure professional communication/proportionate response. I supervised initial fast track actions including house-to-house, key witness statements, and CCTV.
I requested a CSI to secure forensic material. Considering force policy, I spoke with intelligence officers to urgently verify crime/community intelligence and I consulted officers with good knowledge of their patch, successfully identifying potential suspects. Aware late turn was starting, I used my professional judgement in weighing open incidents requiring resourcing, against the risk of attrition of evidence. Consequently, I decided to retain my section on duty to effect arrests. I sought overtime authorisation providing a considered rationale, before dynamically briefing arrest teams.
Result: Four suspects were arrested. I delivered a comprehensive handover to detectives ensuring continuity. On reviewing the incident with my team, I passed on praise/recognition received from the detective inspector for high standards of file handover aligned to authorised professional practice. Three men were convicted of aggravated burglary, one for GBH with intent.
Insights and tips: What makes the above example ‘good’?
“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
As with all structures, ‘PAR’ helps to communicate ‘the story’ in a clear format…
- Problem: This is kept succinct as it should be. Don’t waste valuable word limits or verbal response time on overly communicating the problem/challenge and situation you faced. So keep it brief, it’s important to set the context and to move on swiftly. If you were Acting or Temporary Sergeant, then don’t miss the opportunity to say so; this is because it clearly highlights that this evidence was gained at the rank and level aspired to.
- Actions: It is clear what this candidate did. ‘Actions’ is the main section and features in any of the various structures you may choose to set out your evidence. Actions is where you explain exactly what you did, how you did it and why (think values). A classic mistake that often surfaces here, certainly in weaker applications, is overuse of the word “we”. For example, ‘we attended…’, ‘we decided…’, ‘we considered…’ or ‘we engaged’. Using ‘we’ dilutes or disguises evidence of your actions. Look how often ‘I’ is used in the actions for this violent incident example above. Assessors and promotion panels want to read about, see and to listen to what you did and the actions you took, since they will be scoring you. This can take some thinking about when pulling together your examples, because it’s not always natural to ‘blow your own trumpet’. Suffice to say that it’s something I pick up when reviewing draft applications and it appears often! This example is also clearly aligned to the descriptors of the competency being assessed. It describes in plain English the actions taken, rather than playing competency ‘buzzword bingo’.
- Result: Having a clear outcome is critical to ensuring that any evidence you offer articulates a complete example. This element should emphasise that your leadership actions achieved something of value, such as alleviated the situation, improved performance, or mitigated risk. If you were recognised for your efforts with a commendation or similar, mention it. The result you achieved could be achieving the objective you set out to achieve, implementing change/s, or improving community relations. Setting, communicating, and reinforcing standards relating to investigation, prosecution and securing convictions (as in the example above) might be the result.
Decision-making is an essential competency and personal quality assessed for promotion from Constable right through to Chief Constable. It’s a critical leadership skill. No surprise then to find it arising like this in written applications, on police promotion boards and/or other selection processes. Decision making can feature within different CVF competencies, e.g. ‘We Take Ownership’ or as with the above example ‘We Are Analytical’. It may also be assessed more than once during promotion selection tests or exercises, such as a Situational Judgement Test.
You may find the following video on decision-making from my free YouTube channel helpful (there’s many more there plus in-depth podcasts on police promotion and leadership)…
So, what’s the problem? Cops make decisions and demonstrate these competencies every day. Well, the ‘surprise’ is that when it comes to having to write (or speak) about how you decided, or what was difficult, challenging, or complex about it, sometimes the question gets forgotten or overlooked. One of the biggest aspects of feedback relating to promotion board performance is: “The candidate didn’t answer the question”.
As I alluded to earlier, there’s a tremendous value and benefit to be had in writing down supporting examples that you may have as part of preparing effectively for a promotion process. Lots of aspiring promotion candidates simply don’t do this. This is especially true where your own force police promotion process doesn’t require a written application. However, it’s a great opportunity to understand how your evidence aligns to the competencies, descriptors or values you will be assessed against. It’s why I encourage all candidates to make their evidence ‘tangible’. If it isn’t written down it doesn’t ‘exist’ – other than in your head! As such, it is much harder to add value, rearrange, or to construct meaningful examples. The act of writing it down helps to cement the ‘story’ in your memory banks.
Writing your evidence out, as with the example cited above, helps ensure that your operational experiences have clear structure. This makes it easier for you and assessors to read and ascertain what you did, alongside the outcome/s you achieved. Doing this ahead of opportunity effectively serves you twice, because your final written drafts are helpful to think through and practice your verbal responses to potential interview questions.
An alternative structure you may wish to consider for structuring responses to police promotion board interview questions is my bespoke ‘ENAMEL’ model. This model is detailed in the digital promotion toolkits. It’s one that successful police promotion candidates frequently report worked well as an aid to support thinking and for managing conversational responses.
Until my next blog here, I wish you all the best for success.
Kind Regards, Steve
If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend or download my Police Promotion Masterclass, or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast, plus free blog content both here and via my Police Hour guest articles.
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